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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Is Returning to Theaters Because You Like It

By Sherilyn Connelly

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Is Returning to Theaters Because You Like It

On Sunday, September 10, 2017, and Wednesday, September 13, Fathom Events will present 35th anniversary screenings of Nicholas Meyer’s 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in some 600+ theaters. This raises a question: why?

Because it’s the one people will go see. Conventional wisdom holds that it’s the best Star Trek movie, thanks to its explosions and brrap-brrap-pew-pew and the camp value of what the nice folks at Fathom call “the ‘i-Khan-ic’ Kirk cry, ‘Khaaaan!’” They also praise it as “the sixth highest-grossing film of 1982” -- an odd metric, considering that the fifth highest was Porky’s, which grossed $105M compared to Khan’s $79M. Where’s that 35th anniversary screening?

Due to the disappointment over Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Khan was reflexively called the best Trek movie ever from the start. F’reals -- Starlog #62 went on sale on almost exactly two months to the day after Khan premiered, and this ad was in the inside front cover:

The smart cookies at Fathom are specifically showing the “digitally remastered Director’s Cut” which was released on Blu-ray last year, so it’ll be the same version in every way that most ticket-buyers will have on their shelves at home, just projected onto a much larger screen with trickier sightlines.

It’s a pity that a 35th anniversary screening couldn’t be given a 35mm screening, but there surely aren’t enough prints still in existence. This raises another question: will Star Trek III: The Search for Spock be screened for its 35th anniversary in 2019, or (heaven forbid) Star Trek: The Motion Picture for its 40th anniversary that same year?

Unlikely, at best. Thanks to the dumb-stupid “odd-numbered curse,” The Search for Spock has been retconned as a bad movie, when at the time of its release it was considered the best yet. (Arthur C. Clarke thought so.) And Paramount bungled The Motion Picture’s chances of a proper reevaluation when the new material for the 2001 Director’s Edition was produced in standard definition for DVD release only, which is why that more streamlined version will never be released on Blu-ray or shown in theaters. (At least one 35mm print of the 1979 version of The Motion Picture is still in circulation, and it’s very much worth catching.)

It speaks to the fundamental problem with repertory screenings, especially in an era when seemingly all things are available at home: cinema programmers may want to show something different and unusual, but different and unusual – or even “familiar but not the most popular” -- is no longer a sustainable business model.

For example, there’s a local San Francisco film series which purports to emphasize “dismissed, underrated and forgotten films.” Their next event is a Wes Anderson marathon kicking off with The Grand Budapest Hotel, which grossed $59M on a $25M budget, won four Oscars and was nominated for five more including Best Picture and Best Director. Not exactly dismissed, underrated, and/or forgotten, but the days when it was economically viable for the series to hold midnight screenings of classic trash like Class of 1984 or The Candy Snatchers (or truly glorious Burt Reynolds triple features) are gone.

Still, who knows? If enough people go to Khan, maybe there’ll eventually be Search for Spock or The Motion Picture anniversary screenings. But it’ll probably mean more Khan – after all, its 37th anniversary is just around the corner in 2019.

Images: Paramount, Starlog, 20th Century Fox